Blog: Are you a Secret Maker?

Considering Making and Makers for the East Leeds Makers survey

It’s a mixed weather Sunday in mid March, and I have just emerged from an hour-long bath. My neighbours trees now just tap lightly on the bathroom window, as opposed to the past few days where, thanks to storms Gareth and Hannah they have battered, with a sense of unusual urgency, upon the side of the house, as if sending a tree morse code.

Batten down the hatches, the winds are here.

The dulcet sound of James Shakeshaft (a Leeds musician, a maker of music) wafts up the stairs, as I contemplate what it is to be a maker.

Engraver - Wood working

My initial thoughts are; we are all makers. From the moment we wake up, we are making decisions. When to get up, what to wear, when to leave the house, or indeed whether to stay. We make our beds, (well, not all of us but let’s not get distracted here) we make breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner, supper, a snack, a cuppa.

We collectively make a community come together, or separate. We collectively make decisions as to whom we might honour with speaking on our behalf, and, similarly, many make the decision to abstain from the debate. We make our way in the world.

Making is inherent in our language as something we do.

However, when asked, “Are you a maker?” so many people immediately translate that as something ‘other people do’.

So what if we take the dictionary explanation of making: a person or thing that makes or produces something.

Does this change our perception of what a maker is?

Perhaps we don’t acknowledge that a large part of our daily lives is a creative process? Perhaps a maker is a person or thing that makes or produces something, which in itself, is not necessary for survival?

Perhaps it is because we are not taught to relish something that doesn’t turn out as well as we’d planned in our heads?

The sewing machine and item of clothing

So here are a few maker myths debunked…

  • An artist is not necessarily just someone who can paint.
  • A musician is not only someone who can play an instrument.
  • A singer is not someone defined by whether they can sing in tune.
  • A writer is not exclusively someone who has had a piece of work published.
  • A craftsperson is not confined to someone who sews, knits, welds, saws or attaches things together.

Yes, they are all makers, but they have learnt by trial and error, by giving it a go, by stepping outside their comfort zone, by hanging out with others and sharing knowledge. There are no right or wrongs in the world of making, which is why so many of us make things just for the sheer delight of doing so.

However, confidence, accessibility, encouragement and dedication can often be the elements separating those who do, from those who believe they can’t.

Whatever you think a maker is, of this you can be sure, there is nothing more pleasing than standing back and looking upon something you have made just because you wanted to, and enjoying your creation, flaws and all.

And whilst I still believe that we are all makers in one form or another, there are only some of us that do it to satisfy a creative urge that goes beyond the day to day.

Creativity is inherent in us all, whether we choose to take it to another level is completely the choice of the individual, but there is room for us all to follow our dreams, make mistakes, pick ourselves up, and start again.

Right, I’m of to make a cup of tea…

Claire Irving
Communities Director
East Leeds Project

P.S. If you are a Maker – please have a look at our survey below – it’ll only take a couple of minutes!

 

ELM-logo

The East Leeds Makers survey is now live and will gather data over the next couple of months, with the intention of publishing our research in the summer of 2019. Please go to the survey by clicking the link below:

COMPLETE THE EAST LEEDS MAKERS ONLINE SURVEY

News: Gipton Gala Commission

Artists commission opportunity now live

We are delighted to announce that the East Leeds Project has been awarded funding through Leeds Inspired to commission an artist or artists to create a new piece of work for the Gipton Gala 2019, which will take place at Fearnville Fields on 14 July. We are now inviting proposals on the theme of ‘making.’

Gipton Gala Artists Brief

Artists at any stage of their career, working individually or collectively, are invited to apply. Please download full details of the commission above.

Submit through CuratorSpace

All enquiries and submissions should be made through CuratorSpace, where the commission details are also available, on the link above.

The deadline for submissions is midnight on Friday 26 April.

The commission forms part of an extended period of R&D informing our ambition to create a Pavilion at Fearnville Fields, as a temporary maker space, in partnership with Bauman Lyons Architects and utilising their innovative system MassBespoke.

The East Leeds Project would like to thank Leeds Inspired for their support.

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Photo of Feanville Fields: Courtesy of Flexi-Funding.co.uk

Blog: Mapping East Leeds

By Katie Raw, University of Leeds Undergraduate studying Human Geography.

I became involved with the East Leeds Project after connecting with its Directors. Having discussed how my background in social geography could further the ambitions of the organisation, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to put my skills into practice as part of an important cultural project in an area with little cultural infrastructure.

Academically, my interests centre around cultural and social geography, and particularly the socio-cultural elements of interactions and space. I am also a creative practitioner and have been heavily involved in dance throughout my life.

Throughout my Human Geography degree, I have undertaken a number of spatial mapping activities. With the University of Leeds known as the pioneers of spatial analysis research, Leeds’ human geography graduates are nationally recognised for their strength in this field. I have been lucky enough to work with some amazing professors, some of who even built the programmes that I am using today!

Previous projects using GIS (Geographical Information Systems – programmes for spatial analysis research) were centred on the retail sector. Last year, I tested the viability of a new out-of-town development for a major Grocery brand by mapping local geodemographic information, as well as supply and demand data. Now, I am mapping stores in the local area using a variety of data sources to determine how the client can improve market share.

As well as finding mapping and quantitative analysis a challenging yet rewarding proposition, my strength in the study of human geography also concerns social and cultural areas, including migration. The subject of my final year dissertation is an exploration of the emergence of a recreational drug culture across the student population.

East Leeds Makers is part of a Workplace Cooperative Project Module as part of my degree. As well as being motivated by the opportunity to apply academic, research-based theories in an area previously unexplored, I am also excited on a personal level by the prospect of meeting new communities in the city and collecting qualitative data through face-to-face interviews and as well as through an online and paper survey.

At the time of writing, the project has just kicked off, with interviews with residents of East Leeds. Early findings are already outlining the issues at play – a lack of spaces in which to work, meet and share, a lack of opportunities, support and a sense of isolation from activities taking place in other areas of the city.

But it is evident what East Leeds does not lack – creative spark – we’ve already had discussions with artists, graphic designers and film makers as well as people engaged in crafts like woodwork, clothes making and designing greetings cards.

So, watch this space – the East Leeds Makers mapping project is up and running. If you haven’t had the opportunity already, we would be grateful if you could participate and allow us to successfully complete our project, before we publish our findings in the summer of 2019.

Katie Raw
East Leeds Project
Undergraduate Placement from the University of Leeds

 

ELM-logo

The research project is now live and will gather data over the next few months, with the intention of publishing our research in the summer of 2019. Please go to the survey by clicking the link below:

COMPLETE THE EAST LEEDS MAKERS ONLINE SURVEY

News: MAP Community Day

ELP Director Kerry Harker speaks at the MAP Community Day, Leeds Corn Exchange

Kerry was a guest speaker, and the following text was the speech she gave in support of MAP’s attempts to fundraise to secure Hope House as their permanent venue.

Kerry addresses MAP-1

It’s hopefully a given that any large city like Leeds, with the cultural ambitions that we hold, needs major arts institutions and venues. And we have them – Opera North, Leeds Playhouse, Northern Ballet, the Grand Theatre and the Arena to name a few. Here we are today in the stunning setting of the Corn Exchange, itself a major feature of the cityscape over the years, and happily enjoying a contemporary renaissance as a venue for arts and creativity.

But alongside these landmarks, it’s absolutely critical for a thriving cultural ecology that we have a broad range of venues, large and small, established on varying business models, that support the broadest possible range of forms of creativity, and which engage and give a platform to different voices through the participants and audiences that they gather.

MAP publicity

I think what’s remarkable about the cultural offer of Leeds, as someone who’s been in the city for nearly 30 years, is that we have a particular strength and specialism in the creation of smaller-scale venues and organizations that we might think of as independent or alternative, and that have specifically been created by practitioners themselves. Artists and other creative people have given this city some real treasures – among them are Patrick Studios, Leeds Print Workshop on Vicar Lane, and the Art Hostel on Kirkgate, all created by East Street Arts. A couple of weeks ago they announced the news that they are soon to open a new and permanent Art Hostel within their developing artist-run citadel in Burmantofts, which is fantastic news. I’m sure we’re going to hear more about this from Nic in a minute. In the city centre we also have Belgrave Music Hall, Headrow House, the Brunswick, Serf and Wharf Chambers, and the brilliant Duke Studios on Sheaf Street, a nationally and internationally renowned pioneering co-working and events space. Alongside others beyond the city centre and some which have come and gone over the years, such as &Model and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, these independent spaces collectively represent an enviable cultural strength and USP for Leeds.

Another one is The Tetley, a centre for contemporary art and learning that I co-founded with Pippa Hale in 2013. A few days ago The Tetley celebrated its fifth birthday. In five short years, it has become a major cultural venue for the city centre and the fast-developing South Bank. Alongside formal art exhibitions, the Tetley provides an important social space for meeting and conversation, eating and drinking, learning for everyone from toddlers through to students in Higher Education and adults, a wide range of private and corporate events and celebrations such as weddings, and art events including the annual international contemporary artists’ book fair. It’s making a major contribution to the new public realm that is set to develop around it over the coming years, and will one day (in line with our original vision) provide a landmark cultural anchor within a major city park. To date it has supported the work of over 550 artists, and welcomes over 125,000 visitors annually, now exceeding 600,000 visitors since 2013. It has nurtured the careers not just of artists, but also of curators, writers, technicians, administrators and managers, chefs, bar staff, receptionists, researchers, commercial businesses and many others who have gone on to work in the creative and commercial economies elsewhere.

Kerry addresses MAP-3

But when Pippa and I founded the artist-led initiative Project Space Leeds (which still runs The Tetley today), jointly with Diane Howse, in 2006, there’s no way we could have imagined then the potential that The Tetley would hold, the role it would come to play in the city, or the social, cultural, and economic value it would create. Or even that it would exist at all – we began by running a project space at Whitehall Waterfront for five years from 2007-12, a pilot phase for what came next. All we held as an organisation in the early days was potential – we invested in the creation of new work and largely supported young and emerging artists who were at an early stage in their careers. I’m grateful to the city and all those who supported us back then, enabling us to grow, stabilize, and ultimately make the move to the Tetley.

When I think about the current position for MAP, the opportunities and challenges facing it, it seems to me that there’s a lot of synergy with this journey. I’ve only been aware of MAP’s work for the last couple of years, but as I’ve got to know Tom and the team better, I’ve been incredibly impressed by the work that they do and everything they’ve achieved over the last 10 years, including the fact that to date they’ve done it all pretty much off their own backs, without significant public funding. For all that time, they’ve been working away a little under the radar of some of us inside Hope House, creating a unique environment through art and music for young people who have difficult accessing mainstream education as well as hosting other organizations who benefit from being part of a cultural hub that enables the collaboration and networking critical to developing creative enterprises.

MAP publicity-2

But MAP is now at a tipping point. Amid the immediate threat of losing their home due to the rapid commercial development of Mabgate, their response has been both bold and inspiring. Today is part of MAP’s fundraising drive to enable it to buy Hope House to not only secure its future on Mabgate forever, but to enable it to do more of the amazing work with young people that it already does, as well as adding apprenticeships and professional development to its offer. In the process it will become a more public-facing venue with a shop, café and expanded gallery and events spaces so that more of us can have access to its beautiful Grade-I listed building in the future. I don’t know about you, but I for one look forward to being able to visit Hope House post-renovation to enjoy an exhibition, screening or music performance, or to take part in a workshop, or just to have a coffee with a friend or a business meeting in an inspirational and historic setting.

MAP have a beautiful vision for the future of Hope House, but when we invest in self-organised activity, we don’t always know what the outcomes will be. Sometimes it’s about taking an informed punt on highly ambitious, passionate individuals and teams of people who have a vision and the proven drive to deliver. In an environment where creative subjects are under increasing pressure in the school curriculum, it’s essential that organizations like MAP continue to create opportunities for creative learning and expression. Creativity is essential to the future vitality of cities including this one, as it will be central to solving urgent global challenges. I hope I’ve argued compellingly here that alongside civic cultural flagships, we need smaller-scale venues that nurture participation in creative subjects. In fact, there is plenty of research today which argues that these smaller-scale venues, especially those which host creative workspaces of the type which MAP provides, and which grow up from the grass roots and are therefore genuinely embedded in the locales that they serve, may generate even more cultural value than their larger counterparts. They enable trial and error and artistic experimentation in a vital lower-stakes way; they have the capacity to invest in individuals over the longer term; and they provide facilities and interaction on a more human scale. They are small enough to care, but big enough to cope, offering spaces of togetherness that create a different but no less essential kind of sustenance in the city. Without these venues that nurture creativity in its earliest stages of expression, where will the artists, musicians and others come from to populate the programmes of our cultural flagships in the future?

Kerry addresses MAP-2

Leeds is setting its sights on a year of culture in 2023. We want to see MAP and Hope House going from strength to strength and playing a central role in the year’s activities. In order to achieve that ambition, it requires all of us to get behind MAP and support its campaign to purchase Hope House. In the early days of Project Space Leeds, we were grateful for the support of Leeds City Council and Arts Council England. But no less essential was the support of numerous individuals and businesses who gave their time, advocacy, expertise, services and support for free – and sometimes their money too. I urge everyone here to get behind this amazing organisation in any way that you can – together we can ensure that we have Hope for another 10 years into the future.

Kerry Harker

1st December 2018

Visit MAP’s website